Audio: Teddy Abrams and Jubilant Sykes on Bernstein’s Mass

Jubilant Sykes at WUOL

Leonard Bernstein composed Mass for the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and commissioned by Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy. It was controversial at the time, taking the form of a Roman Catholic mass and interweaving new texts from Bernstein, Stephen Schwarz and even Paul Simon. Mass, a gigantic theatrical work, is an amalgamation of musical styles, from rock to blues to atonal. Jubilant Sykes, Grammy-nominated for his recording of Bernstein’s Mass with the Baltimore Symphony, is singing the role of Celebrant in the Louisville Orchestra‘s performance, with Teddy Abrams conducting, this Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Both stopped by Classical 90.5 to talk with Daniel Gilliam about this complex and challenging work.

(Related: listen to a panel discussion on Bernstein’s Mass, moderated by Daniel Gilliam, with panelists Teddy Abrams, Cantor David Lipp and Father David Sanchez. Presented by the Center for Interfaith Relations and the Louisville Orchestra)

Teddy with Jubilant

Panel Discussion: Leonard Bernstein’s Mass

bernstein mass banner

Join Daniel Gilliam as he moderates a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Interfaith Relations and the Louisville Orchestra on Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” and its spiritual implications. Panelists will include Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams, Cantor David Lipp from Adath Jeshurun and Father David Sanchez of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Butchertown.

September 17, 2015 at 5:30pm at the Mary Anderson Room, Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. This event is at capacity.

Louisville Orchestra Season Finale Broadcast


Classical 90.5 presents the final Louisville Orchestra concert from the 2014-15 season Thursday evening at 8 pm. The music, which is conducted by LO Music Director Teddy Abrams, begins with John Williams’ The Cowboys Overture, featuring music written for the 1972 film The Cowboys starring John Wayne. Abrams ends the program with his interpretation of the Symphony No. 5, Op. 67, by Ludwig van Beethoven. (You can read Daniel Gilliam’s review of the concert here)

The trio Time for Three – Nick Kendall, violin, Zach De Pue, violin and Ranaan Meyer, Double Bass – appear on the program also. TfT has been exciting audiences wherever they appear with their unique arrangements and grouping of instruments. Listen to Alan Brandt’s interview with the three musicians:

Review: Louisville Orchestra Closes 2014-15 Season with Time for Three

time for three under a bridge

(Photo credit LeAnn Mueller)

The Louisville Orchestra concludes its 2014-2015 season this week featuring Time for Three, John Williams’ The Cowboys overture and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Op. 67.

The Cowboys overture is everything you want from a western film score and John Williams: driving string melodies, brass fanfares, evocative percussion and folksy woodwind tunes. The Louisville Orchestra played it as cleanly and effortlessly as any Hollywood studio orchestra.

Violinists Zachary DePue and Nicholas Kendall, and bassist Ranaan Meyer, collectively known as Time for Three, gave an electric performance of their signature arrangements that are filled with improvisation and jams. With no shortage of charisma and stage presence, the virtuosic trio was a crowd pleaser and didn’t shy away from engaging, even verbally, with the Thursday morning audience.

The set arranged and re-imagined several popular songs, from Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered “Hallelujah” and the bluegrass tune “Orange Blossom Special,” to Mumford & Sons’ “Little Lion Man” and an amalgam of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Justin Timberlake’s “Cry me a River.” (Yes, you read that last phrase correctly.) The most successful arrangements involved the orchestra more than just as a backup band, as in Vittorio Monti’s Czardas, a Hungarian folk-inspired showpiece. The orchestra arrangement was colorful and supportive, but also fun for the ensemble. Concertmaster Michael Davis was even allowed to cut loose for a solo. The creative Barber/Timberlake mashup made eloquent use of the strings’ lyrical and percussive qualities. Other arrangements were less fulfilling, pushing the orchestra to an almost inaudible level in the background. This is something you can expect on a pops concert, but not during a mainstay subscription performance.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 isn’t a quiet one. It can be easily generalized as loud and vigorous, but hidden in the details are delicate, quiet moments. Playing loud is easy, playing soft is difficult, because the latter requires more refinement, if the music is to come across as cleanly, similar to edging the window sill instead of painting the wall with a roller. Playing loud takes care, too, and the orchestra or Abrams never lost control.

The orchestra created a seamless connection between the brash and subtle music, assured that even the details would stand out. Abrams’ tempo decisions were appropriately on the edge of too fast — the right place for Beethoven’s fifth. The final movement was triumphant and exhilarating, and speaking of details: the slight lingering on the third chord in the final movement’s opening fanfare (and its subsequent returns) was hair-raising.

The Louisville Orchestra, Time for Three and Teddy Abrams perform this program again on the final concert of the 2014-2015 Saturday at 8pm in Whitney Hall.

Time for Three Visits Louisville


The trio Time for Three – Nick Kendall, violin, Zach De Pue, violin and Ranaan Meyer, Double Bass – is appearing with the Louisville Orchestra on April 23 and 25 at the Kentucky Center. Classical 90.5’s Alan Brandt talked to the group about their origins and their new recording.